So in the past two days I went from minding my own business and watching the news about the devastation that occurred in Joplin, MO due to a tornado to sitting in a van headed there. What happened? Why am I going there?
Well, the story is somewhat fascinating because it involves so many people. On Tuesday morning, my friend Rob Wilkerson, pastor of Church in the Boro, sent me a message asking me if I could get a team down there with supplies, etc. And he meant this week! So I sent out a feeler on Facebook and an email to our congregation and got some responses. Once we had some commitments (both people & finances), it looked like we might actually be on our way.
Then I called Ervin Witmer and he said he would allow us the use of his van and trailer, plus he and his son Justus would join us! Awesome.
A few hours later, as I was sitting in a meeting, I received a text message from Kathy Nordberg informing me that WEAU-13 wanted to do a story on it for the 10am news. And the best part was that I now had to be on TV, which I was not so keen on. Oh well, it’s not about me, says Kathy.
So they came out, did the interview and it was on TV (watch here). After I watched it, I was a bit curious as to how this might all play out, but didn’t expect much. Since that had been a long Tuesday and I was tired, I went to bed. Little did I know, Wednesday would be crazier. Good night.
Well, fresh Wed. morning I started my day. It looked to be a nice and calm day. I made breakfast for my kids, drove Allana to school, and went to do my daily work out. After I finished, I headed to the shower and then the office.
“What just happened?”
For the next 8 hours I sat and answered nine billion phone calls. Okay, slight exaggeration, but not much. I was blown away by the interest and support! Not only the phone calls, but my email informed me that financial donations had come in too! People from all over our surrounding community called to offer encouragement and to find out details on how they could help or support our trip with donations for Joplin. I was blown away by how quickly people put together clothing drives and food drives, etc.
We even had some money come in to give to people in Joplin, which was great. Between myself, Marvin and Kathy we had our gas covered. Now we had some money to leave along with a lot of clothes and some food.
Wait, it gets better.
I put a phone call into my Mom and arranged for them to provide nearly three pallets of food for us to bring. Amazing.
So we have had support come in from people in our congregation, surrounding churches, a doctor in MN, friends in CO, my parent’s church in Burnsville, MN (South Metro Vineyard) and their pastor (my buddy Greg Perkinson) and a host of people I have never met and would never have known had I not done something as crazy as this.
But I still haven’t answered the question. Why am I driving to Joplin to help tornado victims. I am not a fan of MO’s college sports program. I do not enjoy their fine food (though I am sure it is tasty). I hate humid weather and it sounds like there could be more tornados and storms on the way to where we are camping out at. So why am I going?
Great question. I have been thinking a lot about that. I wish I had some super spiritual answer and could convince you that I had a dream where God spoke audibly to me and told me I had to go. But it isn’t nearly as esoteric.
I am going to Joplin for three reasons:
(1) Yesterday I was reflecting upon how fast everything came together and I was feeling like maybe I should have spent more time praying about whether I was “supposed” to go (i.e., was I “led”). But then, after I did pray (while mowing the lawn, mind you), I was struck by the first reason I am going to Joplin. I am going to Joplin because Jesus wants me to go. I known this because I have a copy of the Inspired Holy Word of God. James, Jesus’ half-brother, wrote,
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good? is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)
I don’t think this means that everyone needs to pack their bags and go to Joplin, but that if our faith in Christ is real, we need to be willing to do so and to do what we can to do more than say empty words. Faith in Christ equates to participating in what I like to call “kingdom ethics.”
Now, we are fortunate to have a group to work with and we are not just showing up at a time where there isn’t a lot of direction or plans, so we are blessed. We wouldn’t want to just arrive and tell the people of Joplin what we were there to do without wanting their direction, so don’t misunderstand this first reason to insinuate that you are supposed to drive to Joplin right this instant and tell them Jesus told you to go. *end of clarifying rant*
(2) I have four children and a beautiful wife. My kids are precious to me and I desire for them to know Christ and serve Him as generously as possible. What better way to teach them about generosity and serving than by demonstrating those actions? I can tell them about serving people and tell them about being generous and compassionate towards people in need, and I should do that. Yet it is absolutely important to also show them what it looks like. I want my children to see that following Jesus means that you have to make sacrifices and that IN those sacrifices, you find and experience God’s grace.
(3) I pastor a congregation that has the same obstacles and cultural influences as any other church in America. How can I ever ask them to embrace a lifestyle of worship and serving and generosity and compassion if I cannot live that out myself. I suppose this is so similar to #2 that I should have included it ther, yet I think my reasoning really did flow out of these three, and #’s 2 and 3 were separate, so I mine as well keep them the way I thought them, right? How in the world could I ever encourage God’s people that I serve and lead to do something I am unwilling to do? I simply can’t. It would be both unscriptural and wouldn’t bring about the same fruit.
And even if my children or my church family doesn’t catch the vision for these things, I can still marvel that the Lord so captured me with His sovereign grace that had He not, I would never have ever considered doing something like this. It is only an expression of His love.
Yet I also marvel at how God has brought together people from all over the country to help the people of Joplin. Wow. I would never have imagined that possible two days ago…
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.
May God’s mercy and grace shine from you, Marvin, and Kathy as you help.